‘We are told constantly that Net Zero 2050 is not only something that must be done, but it’s also something that’s going to be good for you and is going to increase economic growth and everyone’s going to be better off. I don’t think that is true.’
By Tim Newark, Daily Express, May 19, 2023
With 800,000 British car-making jobs on the line because we’re not making enough batteries for electric vehicles, leading motor manufacturers are demanding renegotiated trade rules with the EU to give Britain more time to catch up.
Lord Frost, Britain’s chief negotiator for Brexit from 2019 to 2021, is clear where the fault is: “The underlying problem is that we’re rushing at electrification of cars far too fast for the technologies we’ve got,” he insists.
“What it shows is that the expectation we had in the trade agreement when we negotiated it was that things would have moved by 2024, and that is not true.”
Vauxhall’s parent company, Stellantis, told MPs earlier this week that it would be unable to keep a commitment to make electric vehicles in the UK without changes to the Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the EU.
From next year, under the agreement, 45 percent of an electric vehicle’s parts should originate in the UK or EU to qualify for tariff-free trade between the two. Without meeting the requirements, cars made in the UK would face a 10 percent tariff if sold in the EU – rendering them uncompetitive. Electric car batteries are mainly sourced from Asia and can be up to 50 percent of a car’s value.
But it’s not only car manufacturing, Lord Frost believes, but that is also under intense pressure from the rush to achieve Net Zero – a government commitment to ensure the UK reduces its greenhouse-gas emissions by 100 percent from 1990 levels by 2050.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Express, Lord Frost insists: “Everyone can see we’re not ready. The [electricity supply] grid is not ready, the costs are too high; all we’re doing is needlessly causing problems for our own industry.”
Poorest hardest-hit by Net Zero
Not only that but the poorest are hit hardest by the transformation.
“We are told constantly that Net Zero 2050 is not only something that must be done, but it’s also something that’s going to be good for you and is going to increase economic growth and everyone’s going to be better off,” he says.
“I don’t think that is true. We are replacing a lot of perfectly good ways of generating electricity with gas and nuclear for bad ways of generating it with wind and solar, so why would you not expect costs to go up?
“If we’re requiring poor technologies like heat pumps to be installed then that’s going to hit the poorest worst. If it’s good technology, people will install it anyway.
“If it’s bad and expensive technology, the Government has got to make people do it.”
The 58-year-old is considered by many Tories to be a leading voice of common sense and even a potential future party leader. A former diplomat, civil servant and Minister for State, he will be giving the annual lecture next week at the Global Warming Policy Foundation.
He strongly believes the Government’s policy of Net Zero going too fast will cause considerable damage to the UK economy, making us all poorer, especially the less well-off.
Net Zero is political policy, not scientific policy
Lord Frost does not dispute that climate change is happening. Nor is he repudiating the need for green policies to combat global warming. “But that’s not the same as saying we’re in climate crisis or emergency, and it’s not the same as saying the only choice we have is to do Net Zero by 2050,” he says.
“Those are political choices – they’re not scientific choices. And with all political choices, you’ve got to weigh up the pros and cons; the costs against the benefits. And that’s what we’re not doing. You don’t have to deny science to say we need to look at the way we’re going about this and whether it makes sense.”
Lord Frost says what’s especially frustrating about this debate is that many people assume if you’re skeptical about Net Zero then you’re not interested in protecting the environment. “They’re not the same thing at all,” he insists.
“We all want a cleaner environment. That has nothing to do with the Net Zero ideology. When this country was first industrializing, the environment was much more polluted than it is now. What has enabled us to improve the environment is economic growth; more efficient ways of doing things. When we get richer, we can spend on clearing up pollution.”
With China set to dominate the electric car market in Europe, and the U.S. supplying Britain with shale gas, the former minister is incensed we are making other countries richer while making ourselves poorer.
“It obviously makes no sense as a policy,” he says. “As a country, we’re [responsible for] about two per cent of global emissions. We could shut down the British economy tomorrow and it would make no difference to the nature of the problem.
“We are helping [China] by off-shoring our own production and making energy more expensive. We’re going along with that and making ourselves weaker. It makes no sense in a world that’s got more dangerous.”
Energy security should be a prime concern
Energy security has to be a prime concern for Britain, especially as we import so much of our energy from unreliable foreign nations.
“More than ever now, since the Ukraine War, we need an energy system that is productive,” says Frost, “one that we can rely on and we have control over. We’re going in the other direction. We’re installing unreliable technology that has to be backed up. The wind doesn’t blow all the time so you need a back-up to fill the gap. Well, why would that not be more expensive?
“Why not just have the back-up and forget about the wind farms? With our current state of technology, the idea that renewables are going to make us more secure seems to be a total fallacy.”
He stresses how it’s all the more frustrating when we know what the solution is.
“It’s gas, moving to nuclear – that’s the way of reducing emissions in a way that powers the economy,” Lord Frost adds.
“It isn’t reducing our capacity to produce energy, crushing the economy, and making people live in a different way. I don’t think people are going to put up with that.”
Moratorium on shale gas exploration makes no sense
Lord Frost is exasperated by the current moratorium on shale gas exploration. “We have so much shale gas in this country that we could be tapping. A shale gas facility that’s about the size of Parliament Square can produce the same amount of power as a wind farm ten times the size of Hyde Park.
“This is not a disruptive technology unless your vision of the future is that we don’t have any industry. All of us politicians have to care about voters but I think, in the interest of the country, you have to take on the argument.”
There’s a suggestion that we have removed the shackles of the EU, only to replace them with Net Zero. “Yes, a lot of the Net Zero legislation is inherited through the EU and it is now in our hands to change it, but we don’t seem anxious to do so,” Frost says.
“I think people have got captured by this ideology. They believe the messaging without thinking about it rigorously.”
With more than one in five – some 11 million people – struggling to pay their bills, he says, it seems now is the wrong time to be adding to their daily costs, especially with the price of insulation and heat pumps hitting £15,000. Half of all households have savings of less than £10,000, if any at all.
“If everything is getting more expensive, you don’t want to be paying more for your energy. You don’t want the cost of petrol to go up, you don’t want the price of your annual holiday to go up. Energy costs flow into everything.”
When Lord Frost stands as an MP at the next election, he has a very clear positive vision of Britain, but also a warning.
“We need to liberate the power of the free market. We need to rebuild this country and get serious about the national project. There’s no future for this country as a William Morris-style rural idyll.”
This article has been edited for length. For the original article, click here.